Keep your eyes on the veterinary practice interview: How women differ from men in the hiring process

Keep your eyes on the veterinary practice interview: How women differ from men in the hiring process

If you have trouble with constant turnover and filling open positions, take stock of your communication—especially when it comes to women
Oct 01, 2011

John Sanders, DVM, looked at his wall. He was proud of it. On his wall was a litany of accomplishments over a lifetime: A neatly framed veterinary diploma from a prestigious veterinary school. Next to it was a picture of himself along with the dean of his alma mater mixing it up at an alumni bash.

Further down the wall were various community recognition awards and another picture from a long ago golf scramble. John looked at his wall each morning when he arrived at work and sat at his desk.

"Nothing wrong with a little pride in your accomplishments," he beamed.

But John's other thoughts that morning were on something else. His associate, who had been with him for two years, moved on six months ago. The one previous to that lasted only one year. So he immediately put a job posting up on the Internet and also in a few journals. Out of all that money he only got two interviews. He just finished interviewing both of them last week and they both accepted jobs elsewhere.

Searching for advice, he picked up the phone and called his old friend and classmate, the dean of the state veterinary school. After a few minutes of chitchat, the dean made a comment that made John's ears perk up: "Maybe your approach to hiring is a little too masculine."

John was stunned. "Masculine is who I am," he retorted.

What the dean meant is that John's situation is like most male practice owners. The staff and the veterinarians around him are mostly female. "They communicate differently," the dean said.

"Of course they do," John sniffed. "All that 'Men are from Mars and women are from Venus' hogwash. My wife thinks I'm from Pluto."

"It is not hogwash, John. And paying attention to all this will be helpful," the dean said. He noted that when John talked he was very direct and somewhat loud. He hadn't changed an iota since vet school. The dean went on to explain that in this economy, John should be able to retain and hire veterinarians if all other things are equal. First, he told John he needs to have a progressive and attractive building for people to work in. Next, he needs to have a work environment that is pleasant and supportive. "I am pretty sure you have the former but maybe we need to shape up the work environment," the dean said.

He gave John the contact information for a management specialist named Sharon Billings who works with veterinarians from the main campus. "Tell her I referred you to her," the dean said. "She's great."

John sighed and thought to himself: "She'll have a bunch of cutie-tootsie ideas, I suppose."

"OK, Chuck, whatever you say," he said as he jotted the number down and hung up the phone.

He secretly hated talking to what he perceived as a powerful woman. He thought this lady would be difficult and offer little help. But he needed an associate and he needed one right now. John looked at the number that he jotted down and nervously punched the numbers. A bead of sweat formed on his left brow.

"Hello, this is Sharon." The voice was bright and firm. There was no air of authority; she sounded supportive and kind. He relaxed a bit.

"Hello, miss. I mean, Miss Sharon. I hope you're Ms. Billings. If you aren't the Sharon I'm calling, please tell me. M-my name is John Sanders." John stammered along. He was blathering like a teenager calling someone about a first date. His good old boy bluster disappeared.